Library of
Design, Art and Idea

Hande Ünver - Typography

Sayı 12

Bland of calligraphy and illustrations...

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

At a time when my awareness about my future was questionable, while I was unhappily studying Engineering, which I had gotten into completely by chance, my mother and I started an art course to add some color to our lives. Of course I did not know that my life would change in that course. It was thanks to the course that I discovered I had a talent for visual arts, and I decided to prepare for Fine Arts. After spending four of the five years that passed since I graduated from Anadolu University Department of Graphic Design working for leading companies of advertising and publishing industry in Istanbul and gaining experience, I felt the need to reevaluate my life. I wanted to devote all my time to creating original works in illustration and calligraphy. Even though I was realizing that intent as freelance, it did not seem possible in a corporate structure. I was also spending time in nature at every opportunity, and strengthening my bond with the nature. After a while I inevitably quit my job, and decided to close my house in Istanbul. Taking minimum necessities with me, I started traveling. For almost ten months I traveled wherever the road took me and worked. I intend to settle somewhere that I really like, somewhere in the heart of nature. 

How long have you been doing calligraphy? What led you to calligraphy? 

With a background in visual design, I have always been interested in the art of beautiful lettering. I used to doodle back then. But then we started taking typography classes in university, which led me to really working on this field of interest. Whenever I found the opportunity, I would try to use different materials for class projects. 

Did you take specialty courses on this subject? 

While I was studying Graphic Design in university, I took calligraphy from my dear professor Mehtap Uygungöz for two terms as optional courses. We worked on freehand style, using a calligraphy pen. In the free time I could find from my job in Istanbul, I studied on my own, and worked on italic and gothic scripts. I keep working every day to add new ones to these styles. 

What kind of a difference does calligraphy create in your life?

Calligraphy is a skill that produces swift results, therefore it has become sort of like meditation for me. I carry a notebook with me all the time in case I find an opportunity to write. During this process, the desire to write down my feelings led me to keeping a calligraphy journal. As a matter of fact, when I am unable to work for a while, my energy level changes, I feel the need to ground myself. 

How do you think you contribute to this historic art form?

As you know, art, graphic design and calligraphy, much like everything else today is consumed excessively. It has become very difficult to come across works I may call original. The classic calligraphy approach abroad has evolved considerably but it looks like it will take much longer in Turkey. We should accept the fact that you need to be different to leave lasting works behind. I think fusing calligraphy with my illustrations opens a different window to both art forms. 

There are various calligraphy traditions like Islamic, Western, Chinese, and Arabic… What is your favorite? 

Actually I am interested in all of them. Among these traditions, I would first like to work on Islamic Calligraphy. Although I am using Western Calligraphy in my professional works, I need to improve every day. You would need at least four or five years to be educated and to excel in all styles. Rather than doing something in each one, I would prefer to do one or two justice. 

Who inspires you in calligraphy? 

I follow a number of local and international calligraphers. But there are a few names that really helped me step up my skills and know-how. For instance, Luca Barcellona who influenced me with his works and inspired me to take up gothic script. Theosone also expanded my horizons. Last year, I found the opportunity to attend a workshop by Pokras Lampas at the 7th Artistic Reflections of Calligraphy and Typography event in collaboration with Anadolu University, and it helped me proceed with stronger steps in gothic script. Jake Weidmann who combines calligraphy and illustration is another name that recently caught my attention. 

My interest in Islamic Calligraphy began with Emin Barın’s works, and it keeps growing with the works of calligraphers like Ethem Çalışkan, Ali Toy, Savaş Çevik, Khawar Bilal, Eduard Dimasov, and Mouneer Alshaarani. 

What are some of the most common requests you receive? Do you write for yourself? 

At first, it was mostly for names. Then I started getting different requests for logos, and tattoos, etc. When I began to combine illustrations with calligraphy, requests for posters, personalized works, and exhibition invitations came along. 

No matter how tired I am, I always try to write something for myself. As I mentioned before, I keep calligraphy journals in various sizes. And I always take one with me on my travels. 

What types of materials do you use, and which ones are your favorite? 

Angled nib, brush nib pens, calligraphy pens, dip pens, nibs I make from tin cans, quills, materials I find in nature… I usually use at least three different nibs. My first preferences are calligraphy pens, angled nibs and brush nibs. My favorite for daily sketches is Pilot Parallel Pen. 

For ink, I mostly prefer Ecoline, Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink, acrylic, etc. Apart from these, I also experiment with coffee, tea, fruit juices, herbs and flowers I find in nature. 

As for paper, I prefer 300-gr grained papers. Lately I started creating surfaces by combining different techniques. I finish the work by applying more concealing paints like gouache or acrylic over it. 

What are your sources of inspiration?

My biggest source of inspiration, no doubt, is nature. When you witness the beauty in nature, it becomes inevitable to create and share. And music is another source of inspiration in this process. It still surprises me to see how the type of music I like influences the way a work evolves. 

Are there any upcoming projects you would like to mention? 

Next year, I intend to open my first solo exhibition in Istanbul with my combined calligraphy and illustration works. There is also a project involving recycling that I want to complete until then. I hope I get the chance to make my dreams come true. 

You combine calligraphy with graphic design, and create very different pieces. How did this approach develop?

This approach actually developed naturally. While I was living in Istanbul, I was doing illustrations and calligraphy separately. There came a threshold when they fused. I still do each one separately from time to time but I now know that my combined works of  calligraphy and illustration are the ones that express me the best. 

Sayı 12
Ayşenur Arslanoğlu - Puppets Roll Letterpress